"Perce! Perce! Perce!"
A rough hand was shaking him brutally. He awoke with a start. The Uruguayan sergeant major grabbed him up and threw him out of the train.
"Brazilian turd," he said, muttering loud enough for all of the prisoners to hear him.
More by static habit than force of will Perce fell into ranks with his fellow Brazilian prisoners.
"Now then, if Private Perce is done with his beauty sleep, we can get on with the roll call. Perce!"
"Here!" yelled out Felix.
The sergeant major continued on down the lines of names. Felix looked around, dimly recalling it all. He tried to grasp again that beautiful dream of his home, but the more he tried to remember it, the harder it became, until it seemed to slip from his mind like sand through his fingers.
Unwillingly he became a slave to consciousness again. The Last War was not over. It was far from over. He remembered the battle through the jungles. He remembered advancing too far, deep into enemy lines beyond his allies until finally he was outside of radio contact. And then the Venezuelans had captured him. He'd been treated roughly. Everything he had owned had been stolen, including his wedding ring and the pictures of his children for the little frames they were in.
He'd been beaten methodically. Then he was taken away from the regulars and delivered into the hands of the P.O.W. camps. Loaded onto a train like cattle they were shipped deep into the heart of Uruguay. Every day they had to get up at ungodly hours for roll call, and then spend the rest of the day shoveling wood into the train, while most of the guards slept on. The beatings were even more severe, from both the Uruguayans and the other prisoners. The winner of a fight between prisoners often got to take the few scraps of food which they were all provided with each day. Food deprivation was worse here than in the days on the front line.
Felix wondered when he'd be able to go back home again to his wife, his children, and his parents. To eat until full, not to have to be beaten at all, to be able to sleep in a bed and not on some slat in a train. But he grimly knew the answer was never. Some day they would reach the P.O.W. camp where conditions would be worse if such a thing was possible, for there would be much more work to do there than on the train. And Felix knew the Uruguayans would kill a prisoner, rather than have him return to his homeland. Even if the war ended, they would be kept, and if they could not be kept they would be killed, just to spite Brazil.
Felix knew his life was over. Stuck in this country, a neighbor of his own, for the rest of it. The prisoners reloaded the train and began to shovel wood into it. As it chugged along it seemed to whisper into Felix's ear, "Never, never, never, never, never..."
"Manuscripts don't burn"
- Mikhail Bulgakov
Hi, I'm horror and science fiction author Steve Kozeniewski (pronounced: "causin' ooze key.") Welcome to my blog! You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Amazon. You can e-mail me here, join my mailing list here, or request an e-autograph here. Free on this site you can listen to me recite one of my own short works, "The Thing Under the Bed."
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